How to Answer: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

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Almost twenty years ago, I dressed up in my very best Banana Republic to embark on my first round of post-collegiate job interviews. There was a seemingly endless barrage of questions. On more than one occasion, somebody in the HR department asked, Where do you see yourself five years from now? It took quite a bit of composure to refrain from laughing out loud. After four years of running wild at school, I was at that moment cooling my heels at my parents’ house.  How about not at my parents’ house, lady. I would like to NOT be living at my parent’s house five years from now. While it was tempting to let that answer fly after a long day of interviews, I delivered a concise answer that I had prepared weeks prior.

“I am passionate about the agency world. I hope to learn and gain enough experience at an ad agency like yours to have secured a more senior position in Account Management.”

It was the right answer. I received several offers, and happily accepted a job that propelled me out of my parents’ basement and into the city. Right now, you’re probably shrugging your shoulders. Who cares? Why am I telling a story from ye’ olde job hunting times? That’s because this question is still one of the most commonly asked interview questions. So here are a few tips to help craft your own response when this question rears it’s charming head.

You and your company are ONE. Soul mates. You want to have beautiful corporate babies together. Okay, we’re getting carried away. However, you must be prepared to discuss how the company’s mission resonates with you personally and aligns with your future professional goals. That may sound lofty, but all you need to do is take a look at the company’s mission statement before heading into your interview. Take your cues directly from that mission statement to deliver an answer that the recruiter will be eager to hear.

Convey realistic ambitions. Everybody has professional dreams and aspirations. You might view this company as a springboard to greatness! However, this is not the time to inform a recruiter that you envision yourself as the company’s next CEO in five year’s time. Stick to talking points around “growing your career” which will likely find a receptive audience.

Demonstrate an interest in learning. You may not know exactly where you want to be in five years, but think about what areas of your career that you would like to develop. If that’s an area in which a potential employer can benefit your career, then that’s the perfect breeding ground for an answer. Incorporating that information into your response may help a company strongly envision you as future member of their team.